Negotiators Discover That They Need To Limit Their Options

Do more options help to reach a better outcome for a negotiation?
Do more options help to reach a better outcome for a negotiation?
Image Credit: Mike Cohen

When we enter into a negotiation, what we’d like to be able to do is to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to determine what the other side’s interests are and then reconcile them with our own. Successfully doing this can be quite a process. Attempting to do this can make things a bit more challenging for you. There will be times that we encounter a situation in which the other side presents a myriad of options and offers at the negotiation table. As negotiators we need to determine if this will help facilitate a negotiated agreement?

Are More Options Better Options?

So when we are faced with a number of options during a negotiation, we can easily become overwhelmed. What we need to do is to create a set of strategies that will allow us to both limit our choices and allow us to improve our overall satisfaction. Here is a list for you to use:

  • Beware social comparisons – The heck with keeping up with the Joneses.
  • Satisfy more, maximize less – Learn to accept what’s “good enough.”
  • Make your decisions nonreversible – Stop second-guessing and commit.
  • Practice an ‘attitude of gratitude’ – Relatively speaking, your choice isn’t all that bad!
  • Abandon regret – Where does it get you anyway?
  • Anticipate adaptation – You’ll get used to choice, so learn to remain more satisfied.
  • Think about opportunity costs- Once your choice is made, move on.
  • Control your expectations – Avoid being underwhelmed.
  • Choose when to choose – Decide when choices really matter.
  • Learn to Love Constraints – Within limits, choice can be liberating.

Limit Your Options By Not Allowing Your Confidence To Get The Best Of You

Before we go into a negotiation, we attempt to estimate the other side’s reservation price—the worst deal they would accept from you during negotiated agreements. However, despite the fact that such estimates often are based on hints, clues, and speculation, we are frequently overconfident that our estimates are accurate. This can cause us problems during our negotiation.

A great example of a negotiator who is over confident in the information that they have is when we go to buy a car. Pretend for a moment that you’ve decided to go buy that Tesla of your dreams. You are smart shopper and you’ve done a bit of Internet research before making an offer on your desired car. You’ve concluded that the dealer’s invoice price (what he paid the manufacturer) is $33,500. You also assume that this will be his reservation price when he is negotiating with you.

Hold on. It turns out that your estimate could be way off base for a variety of different reasons. Your sources may not be perfect. You may not know about rebates the dealer receives from the manufacturer. You might also lack key information about just how popular this car currently is.

Research that has been done on overconfidence shows that negotiators’ estimates—whether of the other side’s reservation price or some other quantity—typically are overly precise. This tendency toward over precision, or excessive confidence in the accuracy of one’s judgments, makes it unlikely that you will sufficiently account for the uncertainty that is inherent in your estimates of various quantities. Even worse, once you’re at the negotiating table, there’s a good chance you won’t pay enough attention to useful information that you could use to update your estimates.

How should a negotiator deal with this? What you need to do is to seek out as much relevant, high-quality information about the other side as you can, and use that information to your advantage. In the course of your negotiations, listen closely to the other side, and update your beliefs when necessary. Before and during the negotiation, ask others within your organization to question you about your approach and assumptions. In addition, remember that it rarely hurts to ask the other side for what you want during negotiated agreements. You will be amazed by what you can get—including valuable information – simply by asking.

What All Of This Means For You

One of the most important things that negotiators have to do during a principled negotiation is to make decisions. We make decisions based on the information that has been presented to us. If we find ourselves in a situation in which the other side has presented us with multiple options, it can be easy for us to become overwhelmed.

Negotiators need to have ways to deal with confusing situations. We need to create a set of strategies that we can use to sort through situations in which we have been presented with multiple options. We also have to be able to limit our options by checking our confidence at the door before starting a negotiation. It turns out that our estimates are often over precise. This means that we won’t be able to account for uncertainty in a negotiation. What we need to learn to do is to listen to what the other side is saying. Simply asking them what they want is also a good idea.

Too many options may never be a good thing for a negotiator. During a negotiation we need to be careful to make sure that we are never presented with too many options for us to process. Instead we need to carefully process what has been presented to us and we need to make good decisions. Mastering the information that we are dealing with is how we’ll be able to go about getting the best deal from our next negotiation.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What should you say to the other side if they present you with too many options?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m an honest negotiator. You’re an honest negotiator. There’s no way that our sense of what is right and what is wrong would change as we use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques during the course of a negotiation, right? Well, as you might well imagine, that’s not always the case. If we find ourselves in a tight spot during a negotiation, there will always be the temptation to do the wrong thing. When we find ourselves in a situation like that, how should we deal with it?